Precision adds to credibility

Specific I flew into Marco Island, FL on Saturday to speak at a conference.  During the flight, the pilot came over the PA system to tell us that he’d "have us on the ground in 37 and one third minutes."

My first thought was…guess he knows what he’s doing.

In marketing materials, copywriters have a tendency to use round numbers or catch all phrases like "well over two thousand."  What if instead the writer had used 2,482?

Which one feels more real?  More accurate?  Which one gives the communications piece more weight and credibility?

Exactly. So be exact.

8 comments on “Precision adds to credibility

  1. Karin H. says:

    Hi Drew

    You sound like my mentor http://bizrichard.com/blog/ (who happens to be an excellent account and wonderful copy-writer all in one), but he always adds: make sure the number 7 is in there somewhere.
    Like when I send him our draft for the ‘clogs’ leaflet.http://woodyoulike.typepad.com/tips/2008/01/5th-anniversary.html Not only did he change my (double Dutch English) wording in an almost artful marketing document, he changed my price for additional clogs from £ 15.00 to £ 17.95
    Now, what sounds, looks more valuable?

    Karin H. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

  2. John Dawson says:

    Not sure it’s always the case. If I tell a client their marketing ROI is @ 1.5 then they have some idea that measurement is an inexact science. I’d only report exact numbers if I was sure they were exact. I could report my estimate of 1.4653 but that’s overplaying the accuracy that I can reliably report on.

    If someone says that their website has 10,342 visitors a day, I’d suggest that the truth is a very different number. For one thing, it’s their servers being hit by data requests a number of times. Only use exact numbers if you can justify the level of accuracy!

    It sounds like your pilot simply believed that the estimate from his computer was almost a certainty which it most certainly was not. We (humans) don’t like to acknowledge error but it’s there in every estimate we ever give.

  3. Karin,

    Very interesting. And has he explained what is so magical about the number 7? Is it just because it isn’t a 0 or a 5?

    Drew

  4. John,

    I agree — taking something out to a thousandth of a percentage is a bit of overkill.

    But I do think specific numbers, rather than their rounded up or down cousins conveys a sense of really knowing what you’re talking about.

    Nice to have you commenting — welcome!

    Drew

  5. Karin H. says:

    Hi Drew

    7 is an ’emotional’ number apparently. Never round a figure, specially not a value in money, like £ 10.00 or £ 15.00. Then most consumers know that £14.99 is a ‘trick’ to let you presume it’s lower than £ 15.00, but £ 14.97 looks, sounds better.

    Hope this brings the 7 into perspective?

    Karin H.

  6. The number seven has long been believed to be looked upon in a positive light by the consumer. A marketing professor I had explained this was due mostly to religious beliefs. God rested on the seventh day; seven virtues/seven sins; seven sacraments; Christ’s seven last words; Christianity views seven as “the perfect number”.

  7. Cam Beck says:

    In Made to Stick, the authors point out that details do in fact make a difference in credibility. The interesting thing to note, though, is that the details don’t need to be germane to the topic in order to have the same effect. 🙂

  8. Mark True says:

    Drew:

    It takes more work, but we’ve tried to help clients understand the value of the specific by including footnotes backing up claims…particularly in scientific and agricultural markets.

    -Mark

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